Photograph — Nikkei Asia

Telecoms operator Airtel Africa Plc has acquired additional spectrum for its Nigerian operation, the company said, after receiving approval from the communications regulator.

A sum of $94 million was paid to Intercellular Nigeria Limited for the 10 new MHz spectrum (in the 900 MHz band), including fees payable to the Nigerian Communications Commission, the network provider said in a public disclosure issued on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

The acquisition is expected to strengthen Airtel’s Long Term Evolution network across the country while improving the available capacity of its existing 4G network. “With increasing smartphone penetration, data usage, and a young growing population, Nigeria represents a significant growth opportunity in data,” said Raghunath Mandava, Airtel Africa chief executive.

The new spectrum would also help Airtel expand on its fixed wireless broadband service, it said, as well as reposition the company to provide more opportunities for data/digital services, improve on its voice call quality, and ensure customer satisfaction.

“This investment will not only strengthen our leading 4G position in mobile data but also allow us to expand our fixed wireless broadband offer to support the government agenda for faster broadband services with improved coverage and availability,” the CEO adds.

Airtel Africa recorded an impressive performance last year, according to its financial statements. The half-year 2019 financials showed growth in revenue by 8.4 percent, profit before tax was up 158.4 percent while profit after tax grew 11.9 percent, compared to the same period in 2018.

As explained by Mandava, data and the company’s decision to expand its services across Nigeria were the reasons for the growth. “Data is a key pillar of our growth strategy, driven by increasing 4G networks and supported by the increased affordability and increasing penetration of smartphones,” he said in November when the company first announced the deal with Intercellular.

With significant smartphone penetration and growth in data consumption, Nigeria presents a significant growth opportunity. According to Mandava, the acquisition of the new spectrum will enable Airtel to “further deliver on this growth opportunity and continue to offer our Nigerian customers enhanced user experience.”

Airtel Africa (a subsidiary of India’s Bharti Airtel) is a leading provider of telecommunications and mobile money services. It is the second-largest mobile operator in Africa behind MTN by the number of active subscribers with subsidiaries in 14 nations across the continent.

The firm has a presence in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi Zambia, Niger, Gabon, Chad, Congo Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Seychelles and Nigeria, where it has over 30 million subscribers, the second-largest telco behind MTN Nigeria, and went public last July.

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